An interview with Frances Maunder about the hybrid LEAD!’s Masterclass for Young Conductors

A few weeks ago, we interviewed Sergi Almar about the Spring I/O conference to get his perspective on organizing events. Spring I/O is an event dedicated to tech professionals, which is held once per year in Barcelona, Spain.

Today we expand our column about event organizers’ experience with a complete change of scenery! We are in Fiskars , Finland, to interview Frances Maunder about the LEAD! Foundation Academy for Young Conductors and their most recent endeavor, the Fiskars Summer Festival (3-8 August 2020). The event offered the attendees a rich set of experiences:

  • They joined conducting masterclasses with LEAD! artistic director Jukka-Pekka Saraste and distinguished teacher Jorma Panula , and many other special guests and mentors who contributed to the event both as teachers and conductors
  • The young conductors had the opportunity to work with the orchestra, and to receive feedback on their work
  • They took part in career workshops, discussions and advice sessions focusing on leadership, mentorship and the music business, which has experienced significant changes due to the current pandemic
  • They performed in public concerts alongside the mentors

In addition to that, young Conductors from around the world had the opportunity to join the Masterclass remotely. Each day they had dedicated live Q&A sessions with leading Finnish conductor Jukka-Pekka Saraste.

Welcome to the column Frances! Tell us about the LEAD! Foundation. What is its mission?

Many thanks for allowing us to speak about the LEAD! Foundation. LEAD!’s mission is to support the emerging careers of the next generation of young conductors and those already working as young professional conductors. We believe that informed musicians, who understand the management structures and internal functions of the music business, will be able to manage their careers with more ease.

For this reason, we take a holistic view of teaching. We focus not only on developing musical competence, leadership – and communication skills on stage. We also provide mentoring and insight into the classical music industry so that participants can learn how to navigate today’s competitive music world with more confidence.

How has the Fiskars Summer Festival of 2020 been different from other projects of the LEAD! Foundation?

This year was exceptional for many reasons. Firstly renowned conducting teacher Jorma Panula, who taught and mentored all the renowned Finnish conductors active today, celebrated his 90th birthday. The festival programme revolved around this, and we were honoured to have Panula conduct and mentor during the entire festival.

Due to the restrictions caused by Covid-19, a rare occasion also came about where many Finnish conductors were in their homeland at the same time: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sakari Oramo, Dalia Stasevska, Klaus Mäkelä and Pekka Kuusisto took part as special guests and teachers.

It was challenging organising an educational and musical event at this time because of the COVID restrictions in place. To allow as many students and audience as possible to take part, we streamed the majority of the events online. When feasible, we found solutions to include the participation of the remote audience – such as in the case of the interactive Q&A for young conductors with M. Saraste.

How technology helped you overcome the challenges? What tools and services did you use?

The desire to stream and make the streaming as interactive as possible required us to venture into a whole new field and find solutions specifically tailored to the musical and educational field. Webinars and interactive classrooms are now commonplace. We needed, however, to create an experience which would also be true to the sound of an entire chamber orchestra playing.

We, therefore, faced challenges that a regular online class does not. Thanks to the flexibility, competence and inventiveness of Swicket, we were able to do this providing a high quality and interactive online conducting Masterclass.

What feedback did remote attendees provide? How did they live this particular experience?

The attendees provided excellent feedback on the quality of the streaming and on the opportunity to ask questions live. The solutions we found enabled many to have an enriching experience, although they were not physically in Fiskars. So much so that after this successful first time, we are looking to grow the online services we provide with the Fiskars Digital Academy.

Swicket works side by side with the event organizers to whom provides its services, in order to develop solutions that best fit their needs. Their input is central to our work, and thanks to our exchange of views we have been able to add online event management capabilities to our offering.

Frances Maunder
Frances Maunder

Frances Maunder grew up in Ticino in a multilingual environment. After graduating in English and Italian Literature at Berne University, she took over the management of the Musicology Library acquiring an extensive musical and musicological knowledge. During this time, she also completed a further diploma in Archive, Library and Museum Management in Chur.
Frances discovered a passion for creating and curating cultural events while working in the music library. Interested in all aspects of art and culture as well as leadership, innovation and storytelling, she is committed to bringing together ideas and people to create and transmit knowledge and change.
She is a founding member of LEAD!